The Finnish Air Force’s HX fighter jet replacement programme has commenced with Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft flight evaluation trials.

Eurofighter’s multirole combat aircraft has become the first to take part in the series of in-country evaluations.

The HX programme seeks to replace the Finnish Air Force’s existing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft fleet, which will reach the end of its service life by 2030.

Lockheed Martin F-35, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Saab Gripen are the five contenders participating in the HX challenge.

The Eurofighter trial will see aircraft from the UK Royal Air Force undergo testing in Tampere’s extreme weather conditions for five days.

The Air Force will evaluate the efficiency of the aircraft, systems and sensors in the Finnish operating environment.

The Eurofighter trials are being led by BAE Systems flight operations team, led by chief test pilot Steve Formoso and test pilot Luke Gili-Ross.

BAE Systems chief test pilot Steve Formoso said: “Eurofighter is a robust, combat-proven swing-role fighter that can be deployed and operated worldwide in the most difficult and demanding of conditions, both in terms of environment and threat.

“There are close to 500 Eurofighters in service with European nations that provide the backbone of their air combat capability, including 24/7 quick reaction alert both at home bases and whilst deployed at locations such as those used as part of the Nato Baltic Air Policing role.”

In November, a revised request for quotation was issued for the programme, which has an acquisition budget capped at €10bn.

The request for the final offer will be released this year, followed by an expected final decision on the replacement fighter procurement in 2021.